Enduring Struggle with Authority: Jesus Christ's Divine Power
18th Sunday after Pentecost - 10/1/2023 | Matthew 21:23-27 ESV
Does Jesus’ Word Have Authority in Our Lives?
Our decisions, interactions, and convictions are influenced by authority, a fundamental tenet of our existence. This sermon delves deeply into the convoluted structure of power and its enormous relevance, ranging from the common disputes between siblings to major theological insights.
Questioning Authority: A Universal Human Trait
The other day, I witnessed a simple yet profound scene: a young boy and his sister engaged in a familiar sibling dispute. The older sister was offering unsolicited advice to her younger brother, who had just broken a parental rule. In response, the young man, flustered and defiant, exclaimed, "Who made you the boss of me?"
This seemingly ordinary encounter sheds light on a pervasive issue that extends far beyond sibling squabbles. It's not confined to children; many adults also grapple with authority, a phenomenon that plays out prominently in the news and on social media. Yet, adults tend to navigate these power dynamics more discreetly. They may reluctantly comply with authority while silently resenting the person giving orders or choose to simply go their way.
The Biblical Perspective: Adam and Eve's Defiance
This proclivity to question authority is deeply ingrained in our human nature. We yearn for autonomy, often recognizing only our authority. This inclination echoes the timeless narrative of Adam and Eve, who, in their disobedience, dared to question God's authority. The serpent tempted them with the tantalizing prospect of knowing both good and evil, posing the audacious query, "Who is God to restrict you?"
The complex relationship with authority contributes to the societal turbulence we witness today. It manifests either as individuals seeking to exert undue control over others or as individuals rebelling against legitimate authority. It appears that our innate desire for control sometimes borders on aspiring to be like gods ourselves.
The Case of Jesus Christ
In the context of our discussion, we delve into the theme of questioning authority, focusing particularly on the authority of Jesus Christ. Imagine, if you will, the high priests and religious elders in ancient Jerusalem. They confront Jesus with a legitimate concern: His authority to teach in the temple.
They inquire, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who granted you this authority?" These questions reveal a fundamental understanding that authority is not inherent but bestowed by a higher power. Much like a police officer's authority derives not from their uniform but from the mandate of the city council or electorate.
Similarly, a pastor's authority within a church community isn't a given; it's conferred through the Office of Public Ministry, a sacred trust established by Jesus and endorsed through a congregation's call.
From the standpoint of these religious authorities, their concerns regarding Jesus were not unfounded. He lacked the established position typically held by those who taught in the temple. It left them pondering: Who had bestowed this unusual authority upon Him?
Reflecting on Our Relationship with God's Word
In response to their inquiries, Jesus masterfully acknowledges their right to question Him. He does so by posing a counterquestion, one that would resonate deeply: "Was the baptism of John from heaven or man?" This question strikes at the core of their understanding of authority and leaves them in a state of unease.
The religious leaders deliberate, acutely aware of the volatile crowd's reaction. Their hesitation reveals their priorities—maintaining control over the people—rather than upholding theological truth or moral integrity.
Yet, when they decline to answer Jesus's question, He chooses not to unveil the source of His authority. While it might appear as a clever move, their disrespect for the Word of God is no trifling matter. It places them in direct opposition to God's divine plan and designates them as false shepherds.
The Need for Introspection
Matthew 21:23-27 compels us to introspect and ask ourselves the following questions:
- How do we regard the authority of God's Word in our lives?
- Do we genuinely recognize its unquestionable authority?
- Do our actions align with our professed beliefs?
- Do our anxieties reflect unwavering trust in His promises?
- Are we knowingly in violation of His commandments?
- Do we find ourselves questioning the authority of His Word in matters of science?
- Are we reluctant to share His Word, opting for worldly methods of evangelism?
Even as we profess our respect for God's Word, we must examine our attitudes and our obedience, placing our trust in Him above all else.
Hope through God's Grace
Yet, there is hope. God's grace, exemplified through His Son, the Word made flesh, offers redemption even when we rebel against His Word's authority. May the Holy Spirit empower us to consistently accept God's Word as the ultimate authority in every facet of our lives.
In the words of the Psalmist's prayer, "Teach me Your way, O Lord. Unite my heart to fear Your name. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Amen.